Wildfire Run

Wildfire Run

Author: Dee Garretson

Publication: Harper, 2010

Pages: 272

Overall Rating:   bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                     

Rating for Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary:  Luke is the only son of the President of the United States.  He’s staying at Camp David with his friend, Theo, hanging out and building a small robot.  While there, he’s joined by a childhood friend named Callie whose father just accepted a position as the president’s assistant chef.  Their relaxing vacation turns deadly when a wildfire approaches Camp David.  Everyone is forced to evacuate, but through a series of utterly believable mishaps Luke, Theo, and Callie are trapped inside with three wounded Secret Service agents.  The smoke and flames are enough to keep any helicopters from being able to swoop in for a rescue, and they’re hemmed in by the very security systems meant to protect them.  Luke and his friends will have to use all their courage and ingenuity to find a way out before the fire burns them alive.

Age of Main Character: 12

What I Liked the Most: This was a very inventive story with a great setting.  It provides a peak into a secretive world and takes a stab at helping us see what it must be like to be the son of a president – and what it might be like to be his friend.

Garretson does a great job of making Camp David come to life, and an equally great job of getting rid of all the adults whose jobs it is to protect Luke and keep him safe.  Going into the book, I didn’t really think she could pull it off.  The Secret Service is just too organized and dedicated to let something like this happen.  And yet it worked, and there Luke was – unguarded for perhaps the first time in his life and thrown into a situation where he has to rescue not only himself and his friends, but the very people in charge of keeping him safe.

What I Liked the Least: Despite the fact that the fire is central to the story, and is there in some form or another at least 80% of the time, it wasn’t until the very end that it felt real.  Most of the time, there wasn’t enough smoke and heat for it to feel like an immediate threat.

In generally, I found it very hard to get a sense for how close the fire was and how much time Luke and his friends had left.  I never knew how much time was passing, and there were moments in the book when it almost felt like the kids were just hanging out.  Don’t get me wrong, there are also times when the sense of urgency was quite palpable – when it was easy to feel the danger nipping at their heels – but there were just as many times when the book took on an almost leisurely tone and it was easy to forget that the fire was getting closer.

How Good was the Action?  Mixed.   As above, there were times when it was excellent and times when the pace felt too leisurely for me to be really drawn in.  But, at two critical junctures in the book Garretson does an excellent job of ramping up the tension and laying down some excellent action sequences.  The car crash in which Luke’s Secret Service detail is put out of action was particularly well done.  And at the end, when they make their last desperate bid to escape the fire (which does seem to roar in from nowhere to be right on top of them at the critical moment) the action is quite well done.  In that last scene I was finally able to feel the flames and the choking smoke.

How Engaging was the Story?  Garretson does a good job of creating Luke’s character and giving him a balance of strengths and weaknesses, and his volatile relationship with Callie keeps the story moving forward.   I liked the way Garretson mixed dramatic interactions between Luke and Callie with cool technical solutions to their problems and short bursts of action.  All of that kept the story pumping along at a good pace – except for the moments when Garretson lets the fire recede from our immediate attention.  When the fire feels more distant, the story slows down.  There really were times when it felt like the characters were just hanging out – not a lot, but enough to disrupt the action and pull me out of the story.   

Overall Assessment:  This is a fun book with a great setting.  It provides a cool mix of action and quirky, cobbled together, A-Team-like gadgets.  I enjoyed seeing the sparks fly between Luke and Callie as much as I enjoyed seeing them fight their way out of the encroaching fire.  Except for a few moments in the middle when the novel seemed to slow down, this was a solid, entertaining read.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Very little.  Some people are hurt in a car accident, and the fire itself presents an obvious threat, but this is in no way a violent or bloody book.

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